Writing A Book About Your Life – Aspiring autobiographers often email us asking: “How can I write my own story?” Get started by trying these 7 life writing tips.
There are many ways to approach a biography. You can follow a non-fictional approach, recording dates, facts and memories as close to the events as possible.
- 1 Writing A Book About Your Life
- 2 How To Find Inspiration To Write If Your Life Has Been Boring?
- 3 Overcoming The Challenges To Writing Your Life Story
- 4 Personal History Workbook Makes Writing Your Personal History Easy
- 5 Tips For Writing A Good Autobiography
- 6 Writing Book — Paulette Perhach, Author • Writer • Writing Coach
- 7 Telling Your Story: How To Write A Book About Your Life
Writing A Book About Your Life
Another possibility is to fictionalize and blur the line between fact and fiction. This approach to life writing can be helpful if you:
How To Find Inspiration To Write If Your Life Has Been Boring?
Barthes then presents the reader with passages written in the third person, replacing labeled photographs of his youth. For example, in a section titled “Arrogance” he writes:
He has no preference to declare victory. Worried about the humiliation of others, when victory appears somewhere, he wants to go somewhere else. Barthes, Roland Barthes, page 46.
Barthes describes himself in the third person, giving the reader insights into his views and values as a typical autobiography might. However, in their fragmentary, third-person presentation (without narration), they are more like short, philosophical musings than a traditional linear “story” with character development. Memoirs tell a lot
For example, your book will cover birth to date. Or several weeks or months covering both sides of a major life event.
Inspirational Quotes To Energize Your Writing Life — Nicole Gulotta
First-person narrators in fiction give us examples of narrative approaches to time that we can also use when writing about our own lives.
To begin my life at the beginning of life, I declare that I was born (as I have been told and believe) on a Friday at twelve o’clock at night. Charles Dickens, David Copperfield (1850), p. 5 (1992 Wordsworth Editions).
I was born in Blunderstone, Suffolk, or “there” as they say in Scotland. I was a posthumous child. My father’s eyes were closed to the light of this world for six months, when my eyes were opened. Dickens, David Copperfield, p.6.
This approach to time provides a linear view of the progression of life from childhood. It’s a common narrative approach for many
Your Story Is Your Clout. Your Voice Is Your Power.
For example, you might start with a significant event that happened later in adulthood, and then draw scenes from the past that shed light on the background of the story and help the reader understand what led up to what happened next.
Many writers get discouraged when they start a new project. This is often especially evident when writing about more personal experiences where one does not have the protective veil of fictional characters.
When Virginia Woolf’s famous biographer Hermione Lee was asked if fear was a useful emotion for a biographer, she replied:
Fear must somehow be channeled into the energy of work. While you are doing this, I think you should feel that he is yours and you alone understand him. But to get to that feeling, you have to face your anxiety and manage it. Hermione Lee, interview “Hermione Lee, The Art of Biography no. 4” for The Paris Review, available here.
Brandon Sanderson Quote: “you Could Be Writing The Book That Changes Your Life.”
“I come to my desk every morning and I hear these little voices saying, “He doesn’t know what he’s doing.” And I raise my hand and I sweep them off the desk.”
Find your own way to silence any fear, whether it’s changing the main characters’ names or even fictionalizing your life entirely.
Every person’s life is a vast archive or treasury of significant experiences and memories. As Hermione Lee says, the enormity of this “source material” can seem overwhelming.
As a preliminary step in deciding how to write your life story, summarize the main events you want to include. Try to write just two lines for each incident or scene you want to include (you can create and organize scene summaries in our Scene Builder tool).
Overcoming The Challenges To Writing Your Life Story
At the center of great life writing (as with great fiction) is often the core inner conflict and/or outer conflict. A central tension or experience that the autobiographer faces. Tweet this
In both fiction and biography, the memoirist’s voice helps create a clear sense of character.
Acclaimed memoirist and poet Mary Carr offers great advice on voice for aspiring memoirists in her book.
Every great memory lives or dies on 100 percent sound. It is the author’s experience delivery system, the broadband cable that transmits every pixel of one’s inner and outer experiences with radiant clarity. Mary Karr, The Art of Memoir (2015), p. 35.
Tips For Writing Your Life Story
Carr cautions against masking aspects of one’s voice in order to give readers the impression of a more likable person. He says:
The voice must allow for a range of emotional tones, extremely clever, and it belies pathos; too pathetic and it’s defamatory. It defines and alters the distance between the material and the reader, from cool and reserved to nervous and restrained. The author does not so much choose these styles as he is born into them, based on who he is and how he lived the past. Carr, page 36.
In Carr’s chapter, The Truth Contract Twixt Writer and Reader, he discusses the value of telling the truth (instead of “blinding” your audience):
However, how does telling the truth help improve the reader’s experience? Let’s say you had a terrible childhood, tortured, teased and starved every day, beaten hard with belts and pipes, etc. You can write a repetitive, duller memoir of misery that is more than a rubber knife. But would that be “true”? And do you hold true to the way you hold it today or to the lived experience back then? Then, probably, the same criminals gave you something to eat, otherwise you would have died. Carr, page 2.
Personal History Workbook Makes Writing Your Personal History Easy
Carr’s words make it clear that the “truth” is often more complicated than what makes us look good (or what makes others look bad).
One of the most important lessons in writing your life story is how to present people as more than just heroes and villains. Rather, it’s about showing the stages of people’s lives between better and worse choices, fleshing out more complex portraits with more colors (and more shades of gray). As Kar says:
It is the inequities of your childhood, the donkey whips in your life, that make the pain of the past stand out to the reader. Carr, page 2. 7. Help shape your life story
Writing a memoir or fictional autobiography is difficult because you’re dealing not only with the standard elements of a story (conflict, narrative, voice, etc.), but also with personal realms. Some of these may be more difficult to repeat (or put into prose) than others.
Rewriting The Story Of Your Life: A Process Of Self Exploration Through Writing
Don’t be afraid to ask for help, as there are many challenges (including the challenge of subjectivity).
Carr writes about sending manuscript drafts to the people he included in his memoirs to make sure the embellishments didn’t detract from the person or the story. Beta readers can provide valuable information, especially if they were spectators or active participants in the events you describe.
You can also enlist the help of a writing coach to help you weave personal experiences and anecdotes into a better, more comprehensive story.
Jordan is a writer, editor, community manager and product developer. He received his BA in English Literature and BA in English Literature and Music from the University of Cape Town. Congratulations: You’ve decided that writing your life story is the way forward, but you may be wondering where to start.
Tips For Writing A Good Autobiography
If you’re not sure what that is, read my post What is a Ghostwriter first? But if you’re ready to go, then…
It will be much easier to get started if you have all or most of the information you need in advance.
One of the most fun and effective ways to do this is brainstorming. Write down all the events in your life, big and small, as they come to mind.
In addition to recording events, also record your thoughts, feelings, and sensory information such as smells, sounds, and touches.
Writing Book — Paulette Perhach, Author • Writer • Writing Coach
These impressions help bring your story to life so it has more impact when you write your life story.
Be patient. give yourself a few weeks to do this. Before writing, try to have at least 500 memories on your list.
You’ll find that even after writing, memories will continue to appear, even after you’ve finished writing.
This is exactly what happened to me when I wrote a memoir about my experience with breast cancer.
How Writing A Book Can Advance Your Career
Once you’ve completed the brainstorming process, it’s now time to organize all of your information in chronological order.
You can do this with pen and paper and allocate one or more pages for each year, or you can do it on your computer and create a folder for each year.
Another option is to use an online organization tool like Trello. There are many tools “out there” similar to this.
You don’t have to write your story in chronological order, but it’s helpful to organize your information this way.
Telling Your Story: How To Write A Book About Your Life
But if you’re a beginner, creating an outline will certainly come in handy, even if you decide to change it later.
They can be as general or specific as you like, and you can divide the book into large sections.
For example, childhood, work, marriage, family, travel, retirement and put all the events in the appropriate section.
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